Centering the cinematic and visual works of artists of the African diaspora, the BlackStar Film Festival opening today offers more than 100 short and feature length films to watch (many making their Philadelphia debuts), daily yoga classes, free panels, and parties.
Some highlights from the schedule include a Questlove produced docu-series about groundbreaking songs in hip hop history; an extended director’s cut of Solange Knowles’ “When I Get Home,” the film accompanying the artist’s album of the same name released earlier this year; a sold out conversation about the potential of radical storytelling to both capture and create social change between filmmaking legend Spike Lee and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke; and the Philadelphia premiere of an India.Arie music video directed by BlackStar’s own founder and executive director, Maori Karmael Holmes.
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Since its start in 2012, BlackStar has made its home in University City, activating locations like World Cafe Live, UPenn’s Annenberg Center, The ICA, and Drexel’s Pearlstein Theatre. The festival has, however, become most synonymous with the International House, the UPenn residential building that also houses the Lightbox Film Center. As the anchor venue, International House has been the physical and metaphorical center of BlackStar from day one.
But with the impending closing and sale of International House by year’s end, that will all change. Next year’s BlackStar will be somewhere new, and a new city is not outside the realm of possibility. In a recent interview with WHYY, Holmes said, “We could move anywhere[…] Philadelphia is obviously our home. We have deep roots here. We have incredible support from all of our community partners. But there isn’t anything about the conference or the festival that requires that it stay in Philadelphia.”
BlackStar’s potential uprooting from West Philly is a diasporic tale of its own, reminiscent of both the plotlines in some of the festival’s films and also the stories of longtime local residents facing displacement in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. In this case, life does imitate art.
But no matter where it ends up, BlackStar will always follow its North Star.
For the full BlackStar Film Festival schedule, visit www.blackstarfest.org-30-
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